This week, Stellantis announced the Ram Revolution at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show. Though it was less of an all-electric pickup concept intended to compete on a market that’s about to become saturated with them, and more of a way to engage with consumers on how the truck brand should implement its take on the segment.
To the surprise of everyone working here, Ram’s Revolution turned out to be little more than a market-research campaign designed to ensure the automaker can build an electric truck people actually want to buy. But that doesn’t mean the manufacturer hasn’t already made plans of its own. Ram CEO Mike Koval Jr. has even been sharing some of Stellantis’ electrification strategies, including outfitting some 1500 electric pickups with a range extender.
Details came by way of an interview between occasional TTAC contributor Chad Kirchner, writing for EV Pulse, and Koval from the floors of the Chicago Auto Show:
He tells us that the Ram 1500 electric will “push past” not only the current competition (and competition that will be out by then), but also customer expectations of what an electric truck should be.
While talking about that truck, he also mentioned that along with the fully-electric pickup truck, there will be a “class shattering” range extender version.
While he wouldn’t go into details — executives like to not talk about future product — this is the first that we’ve heard that the Ram would have a range extendible option.
I cannot tell you the number of engineers that have told me managing weight is one of the most difficult problems to solve in terms of mainstreaming electrification. Towing has proven to be particularly troublesome as all-electric powertrains typically aren’t rated for extremely heavy loads. While battery densities have improved, most EVs can expect to lose a meaningful fraction of their normal efficiency when dragging a little weight. On combustion vehicles, this is less of a problem because it’s relatively easy to pull into a station and fuel up. Electrics have to sit around charging a bit longer and normally lack the range of their internal combustion counterparts.
Ram’s solution is to offer the option to equip future electrified pickups with a gas (or diesel) motor that exists solely to recharge the battery. Range extenders haven’t gotten much love in the past. But advocates have claimed that’s because they were going into combustion-based platforms that had been converted into EVs, rather than dedicated electric platforms. The theory is that having a small combustion motor that only activates when more juice is needed will be more efficient than a traditional hybrid.
It’s also likely to cost far less to manufacture than a tow-friendly, plug-in hybrid or simply equipping EVs with a larger battery pack.
Budget is undoubtedly playing a factor here. It always does with manufacturers. But running with a range extender also allows Ram to classify the pickup as a zero-emissions vehicle on several important markets. It’s not, of course, and technically neither are standard EVs that have to source their energy for power stations. But the government doesn’t seem to know that (or just doesn’t care) and is willing to categorize them as superior to internal combustion cars — thereby incurring no additional penance for existing.
I don’t really get it. Wasn’t the whole point of electrification to get away from liquid fuels?
Despite a renewed push for range extenders in Europe, they still lose a meaningful amount of energy through heat and friction. Maybe the next batch improves efficiencies, resulting in something more popular than the Chevrolet Volt and BMW i3. But history has made it hard to envision the technology working on a full-sized pickup. Few companies that were developing range extenders actually put them into their products. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if an old idea can come back from the ashes as a winner.
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